I’m not going anywhere.”
-- Larry Rivers, president FVSU
The campus of Fort Valley State University has been in an uproar since a no-confidence vote was approved by the faculty senate on April 19. That decision was deemed null and void because of voting irregularities. The full faculty, in turn, voted to impeach the faculty senate.
The senate attempted to kick it up a notch by sending a letter to Hank Huckaby, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, saying its vote was valid. However, the letter also says the faculty vote to impeach it was not. “It is our belief that the current budget situation, our problem with accreditation, and recent developments on campus call for action beyond the university level,” said the letter from the president of the faculty senate Seyoum Gelaye. However, Friday, 77 of 93 faculty members voted to rescind the senate’s decision. There was one abstention.
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The faculty also voted unanimously to rescind the letter sent to the chancellor. In a third vote, 57 of the 76 remaining faculty (some had to return to class) said they had confidence in Rivers’ leadership.
And there is good reason. According to Rivers, a week before the faculty senate took action with several members absent, he had announced that the university had received an 11 percent increase over its base 2013 budget, plus an 80 percent state match of a $5.6 million federal grant due to its land grant status.
Enrollment in the school has almost doubled since Rivers took the helm in 2006 and the school’s endowment has doubled and more than $160 million has been poured into capital projects. The accreditation issue has been handled by replacing the vice president of business affairs, and the three-day furlough to balance the 2012 budget was in lieu of laying off some of the school’s lowest paid employees, something some faculty members recommended.
Disputes between college presidents and faculty are not unusual, however, the overwhelming support by the majority of faculty speaks volumes. If this dispute is really about a three-day furlough, those upset instructors should try out the real world where furloughs and layoffs have been constant companions since the beginning of the Great Recession.
Rivers is the right man in the right place and we pray he’s not going anywhere. However, those tenured faculty who would like him to leave are always free to seek employment elsewhere. Good luck with that.
-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board